Schizophrenia is a devastating and mysterious disease that strikes one person in a hundred, but scientists have taken an important step toward identifying the genes that increase individual susceptibility to this severe mental affliction.
In the largest study of the relationship between genes and schizophrenia yet undertaken in North America, a multi-disciplinary group of researchers have looked intensively at four specific chromosomes to determine whether they contain genes that contribute to this common mental malady.
Speaking on Sunday, Dec. 9, at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology held in Waikoloa, Hawaii, Debby Tsuang of the University of Washington a member of the molecular genetics team reported that she and her colleagues have found evidence for such an association in two of the chromosomes 13 and 15 and no such evidence in the other two 12 and 16. The positive findings on chromosomes 13 and 15 confirm the results reported by several other investigators.
Previous studies have implicated genes on a number of different chromosomes with schizophrenia. For some time, twin, adoption and family studies have indicated that genes influence an individuals susceptibility of developing schizophrenia. But studies that have claimed to isolate the specific genes involved have been difficult to repeat and, in some cases, have come to conflicting conclusions.
According to Tsuang, the study, called the Veterans Administration Cooperative Study Sample, sheds new light on the confusing situation. It is the first such study to include large samples of European-American and African-American families from the United States. As a result, the researchers were able to determine that the association between chromosome 15 and schizophrenia in European-American families was positive while there was no association between the chromosome and the incidence of schizophrenia in the African-American families.
Contact: Dr. Oakley Ray
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology